stop buying promotional junk

3 tips in managing marketing costs

How much promotional ‘junk’ have you been given over the years? How many branded rulers, pens, pads, paper weights, calculators and cuff links have you been given and subsequently disposed of.

In my case it would be truck loads. I have received hundreds of pens, scores of rulers, thousands of pads, tens of paper weights and a number of calculators and cufflinks – most of which I have never used and all of which has not impacted in my behaviour.

In my case there are three main reasons for this:

  • Most of the pens die before I ever use them, favouring my favourite pen.
  • Most promotional items look cheap and nasty, even when they are designed not to.
  • I hate junk and prefer the clean and uncluttered look.

I know I may not be typical of the broader population and it is always dangerous to base decisions on a sample of one. That said, I would also add that from the perspective of the business funding the items I would argue that:

  • In my experience promotional items have little if any impact on behaviour.
  • Promotional items smack of a lack of expenditure focus – always a danger.
  • There are more effective ways of building brand awareness and recognition.

I have seen no independent evidence that promotional junk is effective in influencing purchase decisions. They suggestion that promotional junk does impact on purchase behaviour is largely intuitive and I do not trust intuition. Beware of research undertaken by the industry.

I always recommend that marketers focus their expenditure as much as possible and promotional items are easier to order than justify. Focusing resources where there are measurable returns makes more sense to me.

I have seen no independent research that demonstrates that people remember brand names on pens etc and a great deal of research which would suggest that they don’t. I certainly have seen no research that demonstrated that promotional items increase brand awareness or recognition.

I would also argue that:

  • If your product is good enough, promotional junk should not be necessary.
  • If you branding is strong enough, promotional junk should be superfluous
  • If your brand is quality, promotional junk might be damaging

Now, I am not suggesting that there is no place for promotional branding or gifts. Indeed:

  • Branded uniforms have a great deal of merit.
  • Strategically selected gifts have a great deal of merit.
  • Branded pads and pens in a seminar environment make sense.

Branded uniforms worn by staff make a great deal of sense, in terms of identifying staff and building team pride.

Gifts that say ‘thank you’ or draw attention to a strong relationship can be very useful in terms of building relationships.

If you are in a venue for a seminar and they are supplying pads and pens, they may as well be branded, although I see no evidence that this will influence future purchase behaviour.

All of this said there are:

  • Variations from market to market and audience to audience
  • Some items are more effective than others in some circumstances
  • Some successful strategies have included promotional items

I would not however recommend promotional items to many clients as I have seen little independent research to support their value and I remain committed to focusing resources as much as possible.


  1. Do not invest in avenues or modes of communication not supported by research.
  2. The importance of focusing expenditure is all too often underrated.
  3. Measurable modes of promotion are generally better than those that are not measurable.

To learn more about this and related issues – click here –

If you would like to hear me speak on this issue, please email –

No tags

No Comments Yet.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *